The Special Seasoning That Amazes the Roman Caesar


A story from the Talmud describes a true incident about Antoninus Pius – The Roman Caesar (AD 138~161) and the Jewish Leader Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi.

As the Roman Caesar, Antoninus lacked nothing.  But perhaps the emptiness of the spiritual life led him to search for something that could make him happier.  Upon hearing this, one of his advisers told him that to acquire wisdom is the solution.

“How and where can I get wisdom?” The Emperor asked.
“I know of a Jewish Rabbi with tremendous wisdom, his name is Yehuda HaNasi.  Maybe pay him a visit will be the best way for you to find out.”

      Without wasting any time, Antoninus immediately set out with his royal guards and wagon, heading to Zippori, the city located in the Central Galilee Region, where Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi lived.  When the Emperor arrived, he knocked at the door and the daughter of the Rabbi came to open the door.  She immediately recognized the person, because he looked the same like the portrait on the coins.  She ran to her father and told him what she saw.

Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi came to meet the Emperor with warmth and kindness, just like any visitor who came to see him at the door.  “My dear King, I don’t know what brought you here, to my little shabby abode.  But you must come in and eat with us, we are having a meal now, you came on time.”  Emperor followed the Rabbi, came in the house and sat down next to him at a table.

The table was filled with fish, meat, fruit, wine, and there was a large loaf of beautifully braided bread in front of the Rabbi.  Then the Rabbi started offering all the food on the table to the Emperor, starting with the fish.

“It tastes great, I have never tasted such delicious fish in the palace!” The Emperor exclaimed.
“I’m happy you like our cooking.  Try this now,” The Rabbi then put some beef, followed by other dish, in the Emperor’s plate.

      Antonius was amazed by every dish, the food looked simply without golden plate and rich decoration, but the taste is superb and the Emperor couldn’t stop eating.

The emperor then took a bite from the braided bread and exclaimed, ” This is the tastiest bread I’ve ever tasted!” and he told the Rabbi that he would come again after 3 days, and if the Rabbi could host him again with the same dishes.

Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi agreed happily, so the Emperor left.  Three days afterward, the Emperor came again.  The Jewish Rabbi welcomed him and led him to the same dining table, sat down in the same position at the table.  The Emperor took the food and started the meal.  But something strange happened – the food was not as tasty as the previous time.

“What did you do?” The Emperor asked, “Why didn’t you put the same seasoning like the previous time? Are you hiding something from me?”  He asked angrily.

“My dear King. I promise you that all the food here is exactly the same as the ones you ate, ” the Rabbi replied.  “But there is indeed an ingredient missing!”

“What is it?” Caesar asked.

“It’s called the Sabbath.  It’s the holiest day in a week, and there is a special holiness that makes all the food tastes much better than usual.”

Many Jewish families in Israel observe the Sabbaths, it starts from Friday afternoon – 18 minutes before sunset – until Saturday night.  There are 3 meals in Sabbaths, and the bread is a must in all the three meals.  Traditional Sabbath bread is not just any regular bread, but hand-made braided bread (“Challah” in Hebrew), and sometimes made into special shapes.

The first 2 meals of Sabbath start with a short ceremony of drinking grape juice or wine.  During the meal, family and friends gather around the table, singing songs, talking about the Bible, and chatting away.

Learn to Make Challah and eating a Sabbath meal is the ultimate experience you could ever dream of if you visit Israel, and now it is available for you, too!

  • Making Challah – the special braided bread – with minimum 2 people in a group, available from Sunday to Thursday.  Price is $100 per participant.  (Price includes all the materials; participants arrive individually to the appointed place)
  • Eating Sabbath meal with a Jewish family!  Limited on Friday night. Price is $100 per person.  Participants have to arrive to the appointed place on their own.

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